Continuing coverage of the first episode of NBC's 2009 National Poker Heads-up Championship, the feature table had finished early with Daniel Negreanu defeating Chris Moneymaker to move on to the second round. Elsewhere, we were treated to Mike "The Mouth" Matusow in his match against the Italian Harry Potter, Dario Minieri.
With Minieri having the advantage in chips, he looked down to find K-Q off-suit, a respectable hand heads-up. He made a small raise and Matusow, with pocket deuces, re-raised for three times Minieri's bet. Minieri then came over the top, putting Matusow's tournament life at stake.
Matusow thought for a moment, considering the possibility that he was at best in a coin toss situation if Minieri had two over-cards, at worse he was a four-to-one underdog if Minieri had an over-pair.
Not wanting to risk his stack with those odds, he correctly folded.
As Matusow dodged elimination, Orel Hershiser pushed all in against 2006 Head's-up Champion Ted Forrest. Hershiser's Q-5 was well behind Forrest's A-K and the board blanked, ending Hershiser's day early. Not only did Forrest advance to round two, but he received a signed baseball for his efforts from the former Dodger.
Table seven had former WSOP madman Hevad Khan, in his new kinder, gentler incarnation, putting his pocket nines up against Scotty Nguyen's A-J. But Khan quickly went from a slight favorite to a dog when the flop came J-6-10 giving Nguyen top pair. The jack on the turn gave Nguyen trips and Khan was drawing to one of the two remaining nines. But the river was a king. Nguyen was moving up while Khan moved on out.
At table two, David Pham had actor Don Cheadle all in and dominated with pocket tens versus A-3 suited. But the flop quickly turned things around as a 3-3-K gave Cheadle trip threes and the lead. Pham needed help, but all he got were tantalizing close nines on both the turn and river and Cheadle survived his all in.
Back at the Matusow-Minieri bout, Minieri had a two-to-one chip lead against Matusow and kept aggressive. Minieri pushed all in with a sickly 10-2 which Matusow, holding an even more anemic 8-3, did not call.
But the next hand, Matusow went all in with pocket sevens. Minieri called with A-9 and Matusow had a slight advantage going to the flop. The flop came J-10-7, giving Matusow a set of sevens, but also leaving his opponent an inside straight draw. Not only did Matusow dodge an eight on the turn, he wrapped up the hand when a 10 came, giving him an unbeatable full house. Matusow was still alive.
Also still alive, and thriving, was Cheadle. After doubling up on that hand with trip threes, Cheadle had Pham at a two-to-one chip disadvantage. Pham lost even more chips when his 7-5 missed a 10-A-Q flop and he folded to Cheadle's bet.
With blinds escalating, Pham had to push all in with a 7-4 suited. His cards were both alive, but he was way behind Cheadle's pocket jacks. Pham saw a glimmer of hope when the flop came 3-Q-6, giving him a four-outer, needing a five for a straight. But there was no miracle suck out, and Cheadle moves on to fight again.
Back at table one, 2007 Heads-up Champion Paul Wasicka had Q-J against online-qualifier Nicholas Joy's Q-9. There was an immediate reversal of fortune as the flop came 9-Q-2, giving Joy top two pair.
But as quickly as the card-gods gave, they took away. The turn was a jack, giving Wasicka the better two pair and leaving Joy drawing to one of the two remaining nines for a stay of execution. But the river was a bust, and Wasicka is still in the running to repeat his previous win.
When we return next time, everyone's favorite Poker Brat, Phil Hellmuth, will be taking on one of the true gentlemen of poker, Mike Sexton. And we may find out if the Mouth will outlast the baby-faced Italian.